In response to the deadly Danzig Street shooting that claimed two young lives last July, the provincial government has rolled out a youth action plan with $20 million in new annual funding to improve the lives of young people in the city and the rest of the province.
Building on the recommendations of the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence report compiled by former Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry and retired politician, former Speaker of the House and ex-diplomat, Alvin Curling, the new plan incorporates and responds to the feedback received by provincial ministers, Dr. Eric Hoskins and Madeleine Meilleur.
Over the course of 30 days, they met with young people and their families; community organizations that serve and support youth; social services, education, justice and business representatives and members of the public.
“We are taking immediate action and with the Roots of Youth Violence report as our foundation, we are laying the groundwork for success in the long term,” said Hoskins, the Minister of Children & Youth Services. “One thing we have learned over the past 30 days is that government is an important partner in providing opportunities to youths to prevent violence. But we are not the only entity. Looking forward, it’s extremely important that we strengthen the partnership that we have with communities, community-led organizations and the leadership that exists in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods to ensure that we get this right.”
As part of the plan, the summer jobs for youth program in the city’s challenged neighbourhoods will be expanded to provide 320 new after-school jobs during the school year, increasing to 440 additional part-time jobs next year. The program already provides close to 4,000 full-time summer jobs in communities across Ontario.
In addition, parenting and family literacy centres will grow from 155 to 172 sites in priority neighbourhoods in the province, the number of youth outreach workers in Ontario will expand from 62 to 97, after-school and the Focus on Youth programs to provide summer employment will be enhanced and the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) will expand to provide 270 new after-school jobs with police services during the school year, half of which will be in Toronto.
“Immediate actions are critical, but our youth action plan also includes a sustained commitment that matches the seriousness of the challenges facing too many young people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods,” Hoskins said.
Recognizing that youth need a stronger voice in the decisions that directly affect them, Hoskins said an action committee on youth opportunities comprising individuals including young people whose backgrounds and experiences reflect the province’s diversity, will be established. He also announced that Curling will be his strategic advisor on youth opportunities.
“The answer to the problems lies with the youths and leaders in the communities,” said Curling. “I think the government is now getting it. One of the most important recommendations in our report was to address the roots of youth violence at a very high level which is the cabinet committee. This is significant because communities need additional and stable resources and a clear commitment by the province to work with and support them in a coordinated and sustained way.”
The youth action plan also has a crime prevention component.
The province will double the reward for tips to Crime Stoppers and any additional programs that encourage individuals to turn their firearms over to police.
Since the inception of Crime Stoppers in 1984, police have received almost 90,000 tips that have led to nearly 10,000 arrests, 35,888 charges and $60 million worth of stolen property recovered. In addition, about $300 million worth of illegal drugs has been seized.
An average Crime Stopper tip across the province for gun-related issues ranges from $800 to $1,000.
The government will also provide $500,000 in grants to community organizations to work with police to prevent crime. This is in addition to the permanent Provincial and Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategies (PAVIS and TAVIS) funding announced on July 23 by Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Meilleur said crime prevention is just one aspect of the Youth Action Plan.
“It’s however a central part because it stops bad choices before they are made,” she said. “I am confident that the Youth Action Plan will help build strong communities where Ontarians can grow to realize their full potential. It’s on the ground at the community level that we can make the biggest difference.”
As part of the plan, the provincial government will also request that the federal government add federal prosecutors to the guns and gangs task force and the anti-gun smuggling border initiative and implement regulations to improve the markings on imported firearms to help police trace illegal guns more effectively.
By RON FANFAIR